Image from Crystal City/Potomac Yard project.

The TIGER grants announced today mean that, instead of bus priority scraping along as a good idea without any serious attention, we’ll get bus lanes, signal priority, NextBus displays, and more in short order.

I admit I was mildly disappointed to hear the results, because I was particularly excited about the K Street Transitway and the regional bike sharing program. Also, about a third of the total goes to one of the freeway bus projects which I’m very skeptical about.

However, the region received the sixth largest single grant in the TIGER program, and USDOT chose to fund a grant worked out through cooperation between area governments instead of other area applications like MWAA’s Loudoun road-widening schemes. Several states got nothing at all.

Most importantly, federal money has a way of really focusing DOTs’ attention. WMATA has been suggesting bus priority corridor improvements and issuing studies on the matter for years. We’ve written about it numerous times. Before the recession, DOTs generally said they liked the idea but were too busy to work on it, and then they got their budgets cut and had no money to work on it. Now that there’s money, they’re sure going to work on it.

What do we get? Lines have a combination of elements. Most lines in DC, Maryland, and Fairfax get small upgrades to make existing service a little more efficient or pleasant. Queue jump lanes in some areas will let buses bypass congestion at busy intersections. Some signals will get special bus left turn phases, and other lines will get signal priority. Many bus stops will get digital arrival displays showing NextBus information.

A number of Virginia projects focused on substantial upgrades to fewer lines. US-1 along Potomac Yard will get a dedicated busway, and Alexandria will also build a rapid bus line possibly to become a dedicated right-of-way. The access routes from Virginia to K Street along 18th/19th and 14th involve installing signal priority and bus-mounted cameras to facilitate bus-only lanes, some of which would have to involve local money.

One particular benefit is that WMATA should be able to quantify the cost savings and service improvements that come from the signal priority and queue jumpers, and use that data to make the case for more of them around the region.

BeyondDC has a good table of projects showing the dollar values for each project and pulled out the descriptions from each:

16th Street Bus Priority Improvements: Proposed capital improvements include a queue jump lane, NextBus real time passenger information displays at 17 stop locations, and transit signal priority/traffic system management (left turn phase for bus) at a number of intersections.

Georgia Avenue Bus Priority Improvements: Improvements include completing TSP implementation at several intersections, bulb-outs, and nearly 30 stop locations enhanced with NextBus real time arrival technology. Additionally, a bus only lane would be constructed on Georgia Avenue for short span.

H Street/Benning Road Bus Priority Improvements: A left turn phase for buses at a busy intersection, a queue jump lane, and NextBus real time arrival technology displays at 22 bus stop locations. These improvements support future streetcar plans.

Wisconsin Avenue Bus Priority Improvements: Capital improvements include transit signal priority and/or traffic signal management at a number of intersections and NextBus real time arrival technology deployed to a number of express service stop locations.

Addison Road Improvements: Bus shelters along the existing P12 bus route will be upgraded with NextBus realtime arrival prediction displays.

University Boulevard Bus Priority Improvements: Improvements include four queue jump lanes, transit signal priority at around 20 intersections, and a number of bus stop enhancements, such as the deployment of NextBus technology. This project will support planned light rail transit, such as the Purple Line, and will utilize the Takoma Langley Transit Center also included in this proposal.

U.S. Route 1 Bus Priority Improvements: Capital improvements proposed include queue jump lanes and transit signal priority at several intersections.

Veirs Mill Bus Priority Improvements: Capital improvements include a queue jump lane and NextBus real time bus arrival displays at several stations along the route.

Potomac Yard Transitway: Bus transitway in the median of US 1 within Alexandria city limits, providing exclusive right of way for buses. Other funding sources have been identified to provide passenger amenities, such as transitway stations and new buses. Alexandria’s portion of the Crystal City / Potomac Yard Transitway, a joint facility with Arlington. Arlington’s portion is already funded.

VA 7 (Leesburg Pike) Bus Priority Improvements: Improvements include NextBus displays at several express service bus stops and transit signal priority at a number of intersections along the corridor.

Van Dorn-Pentagon Rapid Bus: New rapid bus service in the City of Alexandria from the Van Dorn Metrorail Station in the City of Alexandria to the Pentagon. It will incorporate limited stop service, signal prioritization, super stops, and possibly queue jump lanes; however, the City of Alexandria eventually seeks to build exclusive bus lanes on Van Dorn Street. This project is being developed partly to support a the Mark Center BRAC facility opening at Seminary Road and I-395 by September 2011.

Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to K Street Bus Priority Improvements: This corridor is a major access point for commuters into the Washington D.C. central business district, and would receive complimentary transit signal priority and bus mounted enforcement cameras along E Street, northbound 18th Street, and southbound 19th Street. Local money may be provided for dedicated curbside bus lanes, if deemed feasible.

14th Street Bus Priority Improvements: This is a major access point for commuters into the Washington D.C. central business district, and includes complimentary transit signal priority and bus mounted enforcement cameras along 14th Street from the bridge to K Street. Bus only lanes may be included along 14th Street to south of Constitution Ave, which is consistent with a current federal EIS process to reconfigure the bridge in concert with HOT lane development on I-395 south of the bridge. Local money may be provided to extend the bus only lanes to K Street.

I-95/395 Multimodal Improvements: Station improvements at Pentagon Station and Franconia/Springfield Station, including bus bays, real time bus information, and traffic circulation/access/security improvements. Major technology improvements include a mobile web application for real-time bus information, bus information display, cameras outfitted on 40 buses, computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location technology. Finally, this component includes the retirement of 13 buses, replacing them with state-of-the-art clean-fuel technology.

Takoma/Langley Transit Center: This bustling intersection is one of the busiest transit locations in the DC area, however bus stops are currently scattered far from each other at different locations around the intersection. The new transit center will consolidate all the bus stops at the intersection into one facility. This will eliminate the need for transferring passengers to cross wide and busy roads where there is an unfortunate history of vehicles colliding with pedestrians. This will also provide a permanent and visible transit amenity. Through new bus bays, pedestrian walkways, a full canopy, restrooms, lighting, and bus information, the transit center will ultimately provide a safe, attractive, comfortable and efficient facility for passengers and for bus transfer activities, and will also improve pedestrian safety, accessibility, and connections to bus services in an area that is largely low income and transit dependent.

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David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.